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Public Health Issues of Legalizing Cannabis

Considerations for Future Studies

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Cannabis has been used by humans for centuries and contains a number of cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds. In the United States, cannabis has a history of and continues to follow a complicated legislative path, with many states legalizing the recreational or medicinal use of cannabis or decriminalizing its use. There have been a number of studies of the therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids over the past several decades, and there now exists several cannabinoid-based medications for the treatment of various medical conditions. There has also been emerging evidence of adverse health effects linked to cannabis use. Due to legislative changes in cannabis use and possession, individuals have increasingly looked to studies of cannabis health effects to inform decisions related to cannabis and public health. Thus, it is particularly important that future observational studies of cannabis and health effects strive to produce accurate and reliable study results. Study design considerations related to chemical constituents, exposure measurement, health outcome assessment, study design, confounding variables, and the dose-response relationship should be considered in designing future studies and when drawing conclusions related to cannabis-health outcomes in populations.


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acquired immunodeficiency syndrome


cannabinoid-1 receptor


cannabinoid-2 receptor






Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury


United States Food and Drug Administration


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine




United States


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Correspondence to Steven R. Boomhower .

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Boomhower, S.R. (2022). Public Health Issues of Legalizing Cannabis. In: Patel, V.B., Preedy, V.R. (eds) Handbook of Substance Misuse and Addictions. Springer, Cham.

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